A new study by a government research group has found that air pollution is "likely" to increase the risk of developing dementia.

The Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants reviewed almost 70 studies which analysed how air pollution affects the brain over time. It concluded that it was "likely that air pollution can contribute to a decline in mental ability and dementia in older people."

The researchers said that small toxic particles seep into the bloodstream over time and end up disrupting the circulation to the brain which may gradually lead to vascular dementia, writes The Telegraph.

In some cases, extremely tiny air pollution particles can even cross the blood-brain barrier and damage the neurons directly. However, there is not enough evidence to ascertain how many dementia cases have been linked to air pollution, added the report.

"We think there is a strong case for the effects of air pollutants on the cardiovascular system having a secondary effect on the brain...we think it likely that such effects have an effect on the blood supply to the brain," read the report. "That such an effect might well lead to damage to the brain seems, to us, likely."

The study was led by Professor Frank Kelly, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College, and carried out by the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP).

According to the US National Institute on Aging, dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning — thinking, remembering, and reasoning — to such an extent that it interferes with a person's daily life and activities. It is also associated with mood swings and trouble in communicating with others.

A 2020 study had revealed that older adults who show a lack of interest also have a higher risk of developing dementia.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, titled, "Apathy and risk of probable incident dementia among community-dwelling older adults," looked at more than 2,000 older adults over a span of nine years for the study. In the group of those whom researchers classified as showing severe apathy, 25 percent had dementia.

Meanwhile, the government has invited bids from local councils across England to submit proposals for a £7 million grant to "find innovative ways to improve the air quality in their areas."

Apathy And Dementia
Apathy could be an early sign of dementia. Photo: Pixabay